One of the latest blows to women’s rights in the world comes to us courtesy of the Kenyan Parliament. They passed a bill Thursday making polygamy legal. I was happy when I read the headline and disheartened when I read the story.
I have no problem with polygamy. In fact, I would support making polygamy legal. If you love multiple people and all parties consent to the marriage, then why not? Polygamy is certainly not for me and, personally, I have some moral qualms about the lifestyle. Still, individuals who engage in polygamous relationships have no effect on me. As such, they should be free to carry on as they will. I’m not about the impose my beliefs onto someone else.
The idea of polygamy is a fairytale in comparison with how it tends to be carried out among supporters. I used to watch Sister Wives whenever I happened to catch it on TV. There was one episode where the husband was on a date with his first wife. They started to discuss the topic of jealously and, in an attempt to get her husband to understand, the first wife asked, “How would you feel if I had many husbands?” Her husband was taken aback. How disgusting! It was a disturbing thought that he didn’t even want to consider.
What I wouldn’t have given in that moment for the ability to jump into the TV screen and slap that man! Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. I have no idea if that family has any concept of gender equality. It will never cease to surprise me how so many who practice polygamy only believe in one kind of relationship.
The Kenyan Parliament is no different from that husband in their views of ‘traditional’ polygamous marriages. The law would allow a man to take on new wives without his wife’s knowledge or consent. Samuel Chepkong’a, chairman of the justice and legal affairs committee is quoted in a Guardian article saying, “Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you’re coming home with a second or third wife. Any lady you bring home is your wife.”
Two things: 1) I don’t care if you are married to one person or many people. It’s common courtesy to let them know when company will be coming over. I know people who would be seriously offended if you didn’t call beforehand and at least give them a chance to tidy up a bit. 2) Sex does not equal marriage. A woman should have the freedom to sleep with whomever she wants (or not to sleep with people if she so chooses) without being bound to marry the guy.
This law is disgusting as it strips women of the right of consent to a polygamous relationship. I don’t know how serious the law is about any women being brought home being wives. At best, the law is supporting the infidelity of husbands and, at worst, it’s removing a woman’s right to choose her partner by mandating that the man she sleeps with be her husband.
Keep your fingers crossed and hope that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will not sign the bill into law.
Perhaps we simply have not progressed enough in gender equality to handle legal polygamy.
If a law were to be passed in your country legalizing fairytale polygamy (allowing any person to be married to as many other people as they wish regardless of gender or sexuality), how do you think supporters of traditional polygamy (one man, many wives) would react? How would everyone else react? What is your moral stand on polygamy? Would you support it being legal in some form?